Future Of Work

Welcome to the Human Quotient

Lisa Talia Moretti

In a 2015 report titled, Strategy, not technology drives digital transformation authored by MIT in collaboration with Deloitte University Press there is a line in the opening paragraph that really says it all. It goes like this: “Digital transformation isn’t really about technology.” It’s beautiful and succinct and as true as true can be.

And that’s because digital transformation is mostly about culture.  

Conversations around digital transformation are often centered around the future of work and the automation of the workforce; a sensitive topic, because it leans so heavily, and uncomfortably at times, against who we are as humans. So much of who we are is connected to what we do. Who would we be – indeed, what would we be – without our work?

According to a recent survey conducted by LinkedIn and Capgemini, nearly 30% of professionals believe their skills will be redundant in the next 1-2 years (if they aren’t already), with another 38% stating they believe their skills will be outdated within the next 4-5 years. With AI looming and our anxiety levels climbing, what do we need to learn? What skills need updating, which need to be unlearned and what needs to be assimilated into our existing skill set? A particularly striking question asked to Google is, “Will artificial intelligence replace humans?” Fear is in the air.

Senior Editor for AI, Will Knight at MIT Technology Review, has been asking himself the same question and isn’t coming up with many answers. In a November 2017 article highlighting the benefits of human and machine collaboration, he writes, “The potential for AI to augment human skills is often mentioned, but it has been researched relatively little.”

This is a key reason for us investing time and energy into discussing the ongoing research that is taking place at WNDYR. In early 2016 we decided to start a research journey looking into what sets humans apart from machines. Since then we’ve worked through a lot of reading material and have spoken to some pretty interesting people. We’ve read about Daniel Kahneman’s System 1 and System 2 thinking and ploughed through some of Kant’s writing on moral philosophy and the categorical imperative; we’ve read the crib notes of the Paradox of Theseus’s ship, sat wide-eyed as we watched two robots debate with a man on stage at Web Summit and have read through question after question after question of what people around the world are asking Google everyday with regards to AI.

Looking at what the difference is between machine and human intelligence, we concluded the following. Machine Intelligence is defined by rules and rigour. Machines are really good at routine processing work and identifying and presenting factual outputs. Their core skill set is centered around proof generation, statistical reasoning and information retrieval. Human intelligence is defined by highly personalised knowledge (shaped by our experiences) that can be moulded to a wide variety of unpredictable circumstances. Humans are very good at adapting to new norms. We’re able to call on our experiences to evaluate complex, ever-changing situations and subsequently adapt, evaluate and create something new. Our core skill set is therefore centered around creative and critical thinking.

But what about skills? How does this kind of intelligence translate into workable, payable skills? According to MIT, in the short term, research points to an essential need for moderate digital skills to succeed in the workplace of today. In other words, tech illiteracy will see to you losing your job way before automation does. However, in the long term, you’re going to need to digitally transform yourself, and like that beautiful and succinct and as true as true can be quote from above, it’s not really about technical skills.

Our own research points sharply in the direction of interpersonal and higher-order cognitive skills that branch out over creative and critical thinking. After completing our research in August 2016, we outlined 10 key skill sets that we believe are going to feature prominently in the future workplace: adapting to change, visual thinking, teaching, effective communication, collaboration, active listening, empathy, question and query design, risk taking and a strong ethical conduct. NESTA’s 2017 Future of Skills report outlined a similar set. They found that in the US there is a particularly strong emphasis on interpersonal skills including teaching, social perceptiveness and coordination and knowledge related to psychology and anthropology. A similar picture was painted for the UK where the research found that skills like judgement and decision-making, analysis and evaluation were particularly important.

We have a lot to share with you. Over the next 10 months this year, we’ll be sharing an in-depth think piece around each of the above 10 skills mentioned above; starting with Adapting To Change at the end of this month (March. 2018).

At WNDYR we believe that in order to survive the future, we, the humans, need to define our role in the second machine age. What’s our sales pitch to the machines? Why shouldn’t they replace us?

You’ve heard of IQ and EQ, and now you’re about to learn about HQ.

The future is here. Welcome to the Human Quotient.

About the author

Lisa Talia Moretti

Lisa Talia Moretti

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1 Comment

  • Jack Ma of Alibaba recently spoke of the LQ – love quotient! I prefer the Human Quotient but both are sending powerful signals to business leaders – it’s time to put humanness at the core of strategic thinking, purpose, and business/product/process/system design again.